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Hispanics trail other groups in Web usage, confidence

African Americans in Prince George's County, Md., grapple with how to get by as they face increasing unemployment and foreclosure.

"Mobile use is great for quick information hits and nuggets of information along the way, but it doesn't lend itself to job success," said John Horrigan, vice president of research at the high-tech trade group TechNet.

He and other experts say blacks and Hispanics - particularly younger ones - are early adopters of wireless technology that can take advantage of WiFi hotspots in urban areas.

But the different ways groups are getting onto the Web are also showing up in the kinds of activity done online.

Among Internet users, whites lead Hispanics in getting news online and in making banking transactions on the Internet. About 75 percent of white Internet users said they access health information online, as do 70 percent of African Americans and 62 percent of Hispanics.

In the near future, the difference between wireless and fixed-line connections to the Internet may be less bright. President Obama has proposed an $18 billion plan to blanket the country with high-speed mobile Internet connections in the next five years. He said the plan would create a new economic infrastructure for the nation to better compete with other high-tech powerhouses around the globe.

The trends may be changing across generational lines. Among Hispanics age 18 to 34, 87 percent are online, compared with 37 percent for those ages 60 and up. Among blacks and whites, more than half of those age 60 or older are online. Nearly all young blacks and whites access the Internet.

Raul Brown, a 23-year-old Hispanic who studied computer programming, grew up with a computer in his home and is online 10 to 12 hours a day. He uses the Internet to look for work, keep in touch with friends and keep updated on the news.

"My computer skills and flexibility online helped me get my last job," Brown said.

The Post-Kaiser-Harvard telephone poll was conducted Jan. 27 to Feb. 9 among a random national sample of 1,959 adults. The margin of sampling error for the sample of 826 whites is plus or minus 4 percentage points. It is 6 points for the Hispanic and African American samples. Polling manager Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report.

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